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Does More Effective Home Heating Reduce School Absences for Children with Asthma?
  1. Sarah Free,
  2. Philippa Howden-Chapman*,
  3. Nevil Pierse,
  4. Helen Viggers,
  5. Housing, Heating and Health Study Research Team Study Team
  1. Housing and Health Research Programme, University of Otago, New Zealand
  1. To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: philippa.howden-chapman{at}


Background: New Zealand homes are under-heated by international standards, with average indoor temperatures below the WHO recommended minimum of 18oC. Research has highlighted the connection between low indoor temperatures and adverse health outcomes, including social functioning and psychological well-being. Both health effects and social effects can impact on school absence rates. The aim of this study was to determine whether more effective home heating affects school absence for children with asthma.

Methods: A single-blinded randomised controlled trial of heating intervention in 409 households containing an asthmatic child aged 6-12 years, where the previous heating was an open fire, plug-in electric heater or un-flued gas heater. The intervention was the installation of a more effective heater of at least 6 kW prior to the winter of 2006 in half the houses. Demographic and health information was collected both before and after the intervention. Each child’s school was contacted directly and term-by-term absence information for that child obtained for 2006 and previous years where available.

Results: Complete absence data were obtained for 269 out of 409 children. Compared with the control group, children in households receiving the intervention experienced on average 21 percent (p=0.02) fewer days of absence after allowing for the effects of other factors.

Conclusion: More effective, non-indoor polluting heating reduces school absence for asthmatic children.

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